Court Upholds Limits on Religious Messages in Schools

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court left intact Monday two rulings by the federal appeals court in San Francisco that limit the ability of teachers and charter schools to spread religious messages in the classroom.

In one case, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a San Diego County school district's orders to a high school math teacher to remove large banners declaring "In God We Trust" and "God Shed His Grace on Thee."

Those inscriptions and others that longtime teacher Bradley Johnson displayed on his classroom wall amounted to a statement of religious views that the Poway Unified School District was entitled to disavow, the appeals court said in a 3-0 ruling in September.

Johnson said he had hung the same banners since 1982 and described their messages as patriotic. He accused the district of discriminating against Christians by allowing another teacher to display a poster with the lyrics to John Lennon's song "Imagine," which includes a line about imagining no religion.

But the appeals court found that the "Imagine" poster had no religious purpose, and said a teacher has no right to "use his public position as a pulpit."

In the other case, a different panel of the appeals court ruled 3-0 in August that Idaho's Public Charter School Commission acted legally when it prohibited a charter school from using religious materials as textbooks.

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